What You Need to Know:
Published as part of the escalating distopic YA trend, Enclave hit shelves and e-readers in April 2011. Before you ask, yes, it is another trilogy.
I don’t hate it, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be running for my copy of Outpost the way that I pre-ordered Mockingjay (and then read all weekend without leaving my apartment or socializing with the world at large). Like all trends, YA distopia has hit the economical masses and quality has suffered.
Let’s put it this way: Francine Pascal is always listed as the author of Sweet Valley High and you’d never know which ghostwriter was which. The writing doesn’t have a distinct style and there’s a lot of work that seems to have been skipped over, but damn is it fun to read.
‘From this day forward, you will be called Deuce.’ Location 89*
Let’s just get this out of the way – naming a protagonist Deuce is rarely a good idea. The first note in my copy of Enclave follows this line from the naming ceremony: already felt cheesy but Deuce makes me laugh. Is that really the reaction you want from a reader of dystopian thrillers?
As a Reader:
I want to love this book. I take the bus because it allows for more reading than taking the El on my daily commutes. I actually wait for the cross walk to change from red hand to white light man because I want to absorb every word (this is a big deal – I grew up jaywalking).
My cab pulled up to Midway at 4:30 Thanksgiving morning. I yawned through a long security line and rolled my suitcase past still-closed airport restaurants. I didn’t care – it meant I could get straight into reading the last chapters of Enclave. An hour later, Starbucks was finally open but my heart was minced into shards of disappointment.
Aguirre builds great tension in her characters, setting, and plot. We’re given the rigid leaders of a society living underground where no one sees age 23 – but what are they hiding? The mysterious world above ground is unimaginable and sun, rain, and snow are beyond science fiction – but where did the world go? Partially human Freaks threaten the survival of humans as we know them – but how did they become a new species?
Where The Hunger Games poses and answers questions while still presenting the opportunity for trilogizing the story, Enclave is solely part one in series and answers far fewer questions than it elicits.
As a Writer:
Based on the presentation of Deuce and the culture from whence she came, the language she and the other characters use is wildly unbelievable. Aguirre clearly describes the enclave as lightly educated, literate enough only to read the faded warning signs of lost generations and technology. The youngest members of society are not babies, kids, or children, but brats. Then Deuce meets Banner:
If I had to pick two words to describe her, they’d be ‘relentlessly cheerful.’ Location 1642
First, I doubt a bunch of teenagers struggling for survival have the time to force their peers to describe one another with just two words. Second, I doubt they’d put cheerful and relentless together, if the words existed at all.
My fabulous former professor and director of the program from which I am proud to have graduated, Dr. Michele Morano, has a few rules she repeats in any workshop she’s teaching. The one most relevant to Enclave is an old theater rule: never put a gun on stage if you’re not going to use it. Audiences – readers, theater goers, or otherwise – will notice it and will be waiting for you to shoot it.
Aguirre, instead, hints at back stories, love triangles, and deceptive government-like bodies but never explores their issues.
As an Editor:
Enclave has great potential and was probably a stellar first draft – but I tend to doubt that there is much variation between that draft and the final published manuscript. By the end of the book, I was left with the feeling that the author had hit her deadline and ran out of time.
Sitting at my gate in Midway, before I realized that this was part one of a planned trilogy, I wrote notes for my review:
For once I think the story could have been longer, broken down and given a chance to go in-depth. Would have been a great candidate for the trilogy trend and missed opportunity to make an actual statement about how we live and what the future could be.
Now that I know this is the first of three, I’m concerned by those initial notes. Her editor probably should have been, too. Ultimately, Aguirre tried to fit too much into this first book. Maybe it was excitement, a plan to hook readers into wanting more, or a lack of thorough editing, but the quality of the story pay the price.
*Quotations are taken from the 2011 first release of Enclave for the Amazon Kindle. Location and number are used in lieu of page number for citation purposes.